Pablo Picasso's 'Femme à la montre' fetches $139 million

Depicting Picasso's lover seated against a blue backdrop, painting offers glimpse into artist's personal life

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Pablo Picassos 1932 painting Femme a la Montre is displayed at an auction at Sothebys, in New York City, US, November 8, 2023.—Reuters
Pablo Picasso's 1932 painting "Femme a la Montre" is displayed at an auction at Sotheby's, in New York City, US, November 8, 2023.—Reuters 

Pablo Picasso's iconic 1932 painting, "Femme à la montre," has set a new benchmark in the art world by selling for over $139 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York.

The masterpiece, part of the late philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau's collection, has now become the most valuable artwork auctioned globally this year. 

The nine-digit sale positions it as the second most expensive Picasso painting ever auctioned, trailing only behind "Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O')," which achieved $179.3 million in 2015.

Depicting Picasso's lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, seated against a blue backdrop with a titular wristwatch, the painting offers a glimpse into the artist's personal life.

The wristwatch motif is a recurring theme in Picasso's artworks featuring his wife, Olga Khokhlova. Painted during a pivotal year in Picasso's career, "Femme à la montre" reflects the artist's determination to silence critics who questioned his relevance.

At 50, Picasso intensified his creative ambitions, challenging perceptions of whether he was a forward-thinking artist. The sale underlines the enduring appeal of Picasso's work and the robust state-of-the-art market, with the fall art auction season in New York often considered a barometer for the industry.

The painting's rich history includes its acquisition by Fisher Landau from New York's Pace Gallery in 1968, where it adorned the mantle in her Manhattan apartment. The astronomical price tag reaffirms Picasso's status as a towering figure in the art world and underscores the enduring fascination with his groundbreaking contributions to modern art.